Skinny Daily Post


Do you, like me, have “trigger foods?” These are foods around which you simply have no real control. Not permanent control. When these foods are around you, you canít completely focus on the task at hand without some part of your mind resting on the box, bag, bowl of the stuff. I have found it helps a lot to know what my trigger foods are, and to be very forthright with my friends and family about them. Own up. Fess up. Get it out there.

Because trigger foods trigger binges. And binges bring on weight, which gives me the blues, which sends me looking for the trigger foods, which — well, itís a cyclic thing.

For dealing with trigger foods I model the behavior of friends who are recovering alcoholics. These friends use one of two methods: Careful control or elimination. One of these methods, that is, coupled with constant awareness.

Some foods I can eat with help, through careful control of my purchases and portions. I don’t buy them, or buy them only rarely. When they do make it into my house, I ask my family to keep them away from me except for specific portions at specific times.

Other foods I eliminate completely from my diet, knowing if I eat them, it will ďtriggerĒ eating behaviors and cravings that are sure to lead to weight gain.

Frankly, with most of my trigger foods, I do much better when I eliminate them from my diet completely. The longer I go without them, the stronger I become. I let people know, “I don’t/can’t eat that.”

But that’s me. Your experience is yours. While Iím strengthened through elimination, others are weakened through this denial and find that careful control puts them in charge. With experimentation, youíll find your way to cope with these foods. You need to find the method that makes you feel the most strong, most of the time.

Trigger foods for me are chocolate, potato chips, tortilla chips, chocolate, potato chips, tortilla chips, and chocolate. And potato chips.

Foods that require careful control include anything made with sugar and flour, specificially things that resemble scones, cookies, Danish, muffins, coffeecakes, cakes, pies, sweetrolls, or buns. Shortbread. Things with frosting, sugar sprinkles, cream filling, frosting, cinnamon bits. Things that are glazed. Delicious things.

And I donít go anywhere near nougat. Donít ever show me nougat.

Or toffee.

Okay, so maybe it’s not so healthy to create lists.

I know my reaction to these foods is not a matter of actual hunger (stomach is rumbling, feeling a little dizzy), because my reaction to them is far more abrupt and grabby, drooly and Pavlovian. Think Bilbo Baggins around the Ring. If you feel controlled by a food, itís a trigger food.

Trigger foods may be under control at some times of the day or month, but not at others. You may have control under all but certain emotional circumstances. Writing down your binge impulses and recording the events of the day preceding these impulses may help you understand them better.

If your binge eating remains out of control despite your best efforts, itís a good idea to discuss it with your medical team. There are helpful treatments surfacing all the time.

Understanding Binge Eating, Womenís Resources Health Center

22 thoughts on “Trigger Foods

  1. sarah says:

    I hear ya’. Chocolate. I hear ya’.

  2. Annette says:

    Pasta. Any shape or size. Whole wheat or regular. I just can’t eat it. Sends me off on mad binges.

    Realized why the other day – I don’t have to chew it. I can just inhale it. So I wind up eating it fast and then my stomach doesn’t have time to tell my brain it has food in it, so I go off and eat something else. This leads to a night of bad eating.

  3. Sheri says:

    Potato chips…especially flavored ones. Can’t have them in my house.

    THANK YOU Juju! You have helped me more than your could ever know. I read your post every morning. Start my day off motivated!!

  4. rina says:

    You hit the nail on the head, for me it’s chocolate and bread. Give me an everything bagel toasted with cream cheese, and all my stress just disappears. I have to remember that my stress will still exist once the bagel is gone, the other day I gave in twice (two bagels!) and I didn’t feel any better! I have to tell myself just remember the feeling you get after I’ve eaten the bagel. The full, remorseful feeling that I’ve let the food control me instead of me controlling the food.

  5. Dana says:

    How about anything with cheese. Melted, the kind that makes a string from the dish to your mouth and then just slides right down. Not just a little sprinkle, but big ol’ globs….

    Speaking of trigger foods, I wonder if there can also be foods that have the opposite effect. Make you feel more fulfilled –okay to move on to something else. For me, anything spicy is more satisfying, like my tastebuds as well as my tummy have received a little attention.

  6. Gwen says:

    Anything with the name “Dulce De Leche” or even better “Tres Leche” sends me over the edge. Always.

  7. Denise says:

    Mexican food in general and nachos with everything specifically. Sigh.

  8. gayle says:

    For me…
    Chocolate and cheesy carbs – you know what these are – mac & cheese, lasagna, grilled cheese, cheese on crackers.

    I also wanted to post because I have recently found your website and I am enjoying it immensely. I find that your posts are always thought provoking and often times are the start of my journal that day. – Thank you!

  9. juju says:

    Okay. I’m either going to be very in control this evening or rage about the house looking for dulce de spicy cheesy barbecue chocolate chips.

    One or the other.

  10. julie says:

    Four words (well, seven): Bean. And. Cheese. Burrito. (with sour cream)

    I’ve avoided these since starting on WW. I’ve been very good. I’ve had very strong desires, even found myself driving towards the restaurant of choice, but always found the power to avoid.

    Also, I can no longer purchase those diet dessert items… I end up eating entire boxes in a span of a few hours. Not pretty!

    I counter the perceived need for these trigger foods by endulging in foods I like which fill me up relatively quick, and are, perhaps, too expensive – like California Pizza Kitchen once every other weekend. Keeps me in check and doesn’t negatively impact on my loss.

  11. metamorpheus says:

    Just reading all the comments are enough to make me binge. My stomach is already making plans as I write this! All of the above and then some are on my list.

    I don’t even need a trigger food. A food commercial on TV will do it for me. Forget about the watching the Food Network on cable. I’ve made travel plans and bought plane tickets after watching some of their featured shows on “great” places to eat.

    Lately, I have replaced the urges with smart choices: A banana, an orange, sugar free Jello cups. The sugar free Jello cups have been a great alternative. At 10 calories a piece and no fat, I can eat a whole 6 pack and feel like there’s something in my stomach.

  12. Kristen says:

    Caramel, anything with caramel and I can’t stop at just one. I don’t crave it so much, I have just learned not to even look at caramel if I don’t want to end up eating 5867589764 pounds of sugar afterwards.

    What I crave and I can’t stop eating is hot buttered (well buttered!) popcorn at the movies. And you can’t ignore it because the smell is everywhere. I hardly ever go to movies now because I find it next to impossible to keep away from the concession stand.

  13. Ali says:

    Dammit. Now my mouth is watering like crazy. Baked goods for me too. I try to make protein facsimilies – like protein brownies or protein pumpkin muffins – and they just make me want the original version even more. Baked goods are a cruel master.

  14. JuJu says:

    I used to bake for a LIVING. Can’t do it any more. I have to stick with plain grains for my carbs these days, because anything baked will send me to a white flour + sugar frenzy. I don’t keep that stuff in my house, and stores are too far away, so I’m pretty safe. But cranky. Who needs that?

    For me, almost everything bad can be shut down with lemon verbenna tea and a little stevia and cream. Something about breathing that steam is very comforting.

    So now that we’ve wandered through our gardens of lust… what do you find helps you avoid the binge?

  15. B says:

    I was a huge night time binger. I am down 90 lbs right now(but depressingly still have some more to lose.) I’d start eating something at my computer and then just keep getting more. Now I will stop and think about it. I want a granola bar at 9pm but I reason with myself to just get in bed instead. I’m not really hungry at that time either…I just somehow feel it is a good time to eat a granola bar which is crazy. I also know how many calories are in everything before I eat it. I use to do the weight watchers points but lately I have been just on calories and making sure it is low in fat, has some protein, and has some fiber. I record how many calories I’m putting in before I even eat it. It stops you dead in your tracks when you see 700 or 800 calories on something. I also find not bringing it into the house is the best defense. Chips just aren’t here to munch on. I buy the kids snacks that they love…and I can’t stand. Cheeze its are my downfall so I buy them the white cheddar kind for after school snacks because I know I don’t like those. I love your newsletter JuJu. It has helped so much you will never know. It has made me think about why I do what I do so that I can change it. The body log is the greatest weight loss tool I have ever owned ūüôā Thanks for being you.

  16. May says:

    As i was reading your post, i was sadly shaking my head at myself in utter failure at myself because i let myself become a victim of my list of “Trigger foods”. Even though i’ve been working out and watching the portions i eat, i still find myself hitting the “rough spots” with these darn “trigger foods”. Just the other day, i ate a whole bag of those Snickers Popables. I think it’s even worse now that everything good comes in “bite size” or “on the go” traveling size. It just makes it harder not to get them now because they’re so conveniently sized and readily available everywhere. ūüė¶

  17. JuJu says:

    Hey B.

    You and me, sister. Eating while reading, eating while watching TV, eating while writing. Hard to break those habits, and late-night eating, when I’m not even hungry, is still something I have to work on. Very hard. Really glad to hear the body log works for you.

    Hey May,

    Yes, the bite-size portions aren’t any help at all. I can’t have any of that stuff around. The fact that that kind of food makes me feel ill helps me to avoid it. But if it were in my house, it would be in my face. So I know I can’t bring it home. Good luck figuring out what you need to do, and congratulations on the good work you are doing. Your exercise and portion control are great work. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

  18. kathleen garlington says:

    i feel encouraged by your column and yet i feel intimidated. it seems so damn hard! i try to remember everything i read but going to the grocery store seems to be the key. remember when you were 100lbs overweight- how long does it take to see results i mean how do you measure it psychologically. how do you know when you finally get to the point where you say now i can do it. its not hopeless

  19. susan says:

    Avoiding the binge…well, for me it’s definitely not having it in the house. I can usually resist if I’ll have to drive or walk somewhere to get it. These days I don’t have a lot of problems with true bingeing (i.e. I used to give in to the uncontrollable urge to drive to Dunkin Donuts and buy a dozen donuts and eat half of every single one).

    A binge these days is more likely to be 6 Chips Ahoy or 20 potato chips. Anyway, ice cream is the ONE food I absolutely cannot have in my house. I wouldn’t eat it all at once, but would eat a large bowlful every night until it was gone. I do eat ice cream still, but not more than once a week and I go out for it, only getting the smallest portion at the ice cream place. Then I eat it slowly, savoring every bite. No inhaling — that’s what a binger does.

  20. Maggiesara says:

    Salted nuts, can’t do it. I can keep raw, untoasted nuts for cooking in the freezer, but a bag or box of, say, toasted, salted pecans? I inhale them.
    Another downfall is bread and bread-like baked goods (think pound cake). Anything starchy with that dense, chewy quality. The weird thing is, bread and its cousins are only a trigger for me in combo with some kind of dairy product (like butter or milk). I could have a dozen bagels sitting on the kitchen counter, and if there weren’t any milk to drink with them or butter or cheese to eat with them…they could sit there till the cows came home (and reclaimed the butter).
    On the other hand, a serious binge-trigger for me is telling myself that I am never ever ever going to be able to have a bagel and a glass of milk (or a piece of pizza or buttered toast) ever ever ever again. I even think that, and the panic button starts flashing. So for the moment at least, I’m very much in One Day At a Time mode.

  21. Sharon says:

    My husband I started dieting together almost a year ago. Since then he had given up, but I’m trying to hang in there even when he brings “junk” home. 15 more pounds to go! With your help I think I’ll make it. Thanks so much for the suport.

  22. Cindy says:

    Mid-night snacking (as if it doesn’t count cause no one sees me eating); and chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant are my huge big bads. I can’t forget bread – any type – will send me into a twirlwind of bread-binging. I am working on those three triggers. I have recently discovered the spelt-grained breads and find those a good compromise. Also, the fat-free pitas (toasted) are very tasty substitute. Mid-night snacking is soooo hard a habit to break! I just try staying out of the kitchen after it’s cleaned up for the night. If I do wander in, I drink a huge glass of water or cup of juice with a little psyllium mixed in and that distracts me from searching for something tastier. Chips and salsa – I just can’t say no to! Can I avoid Mexican restaurants forever? Only for so long. I wish they served carrots sticks and jicama w/lime and paprika sprinkled on top like they do in Mexico!

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